This place is going to need a lot of work, that’s for sure. Holding up my flickering candle, I studied the yellowing paint peeling from the four walls that surrounded me. But at least I’m here now. I’m here and the place is mine (sort of) and I can just stop for a while. I don’t have to run anymore. I put my duffle bag down on the dusty wooden floorboards and had a stretch. I could hear Layla’s toenails clip-clopping on the floorboards above my head. She was glad to have somewhere to rest her head at last too.
We’ve been on the move since we left Europe, you see. We had to stop briefly in Tokyo, just to re-fuel, but other than that we haven’t looked back since we left Rubia. Rubia. Just the mention of her name brought a stab of pain to my weary heart. And a stab of regret. But what could I do? I had to leave her. It had gone on for far too long. The tussle that we had found ourselves in, scratching at each other verbally and physically until one day there would be nothing left of either of us. And when I found her in the arms of Frederick Zolona! My enemy, my nemesis, my dark shadow—that was too much. It had gone too far.
I had waited until she fell asleep—finally, after a sleepless three-day binge. Pulling the black, satin-trimmed blankets up to her chin and stroking her long, dark red hair one last time, I hastily grabbed the bag I’d already packed, put Layla on her leash and descended the narrow, ricketty stairs to our little Bucharest street, pulling the front door shut behind me before I had time to reconsider. And then I began to walk—to the train station, to the airport, to Australia. So far away from everything I had ever known. The New World. A new life.